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Achtung Baby Super Deluxe Edition (Universal)

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Dec. 9, 2011

The Dark Side of the Box Set

U2

Achtung Baby Super Deluxe Edition (Universal)

If "The Fly" winked its compound eyes at megalomania magnified by media overkill, U2's Achtung Baby Super Deluxe Edition bottles that excess. Expanded onto 10 discs, a 6-CD/4-DVD LP-sized box with filler like 12-inch postcards, the album might not even warrant the baseline 2-CD version. After all, 1993's Zooropa, included here, pooled Achtung Baby's runoff during the ensuing Zoo TV tour. "There is a moment when it is dysfunctional not to look at the past," pronounces Bono in a DVD documentary titled From the Sky Down, the best supplement herein. Released two years before Zooropa, Achtung Baby served as both a monumental turnabout from The Joshua Tree in 1987 and revenge for the backlash accompanying that album's nominal rain barrel, Rattle and Hum. Berlin-birthed after the fall of the wall, Achtung Baby managed the impossible after The Joshua Tree with an equal amount of crucial hits: "One," "Mysterious Ways," "Even Better Than the Real Thing," etc. Yet where its precursor sequenced not a single nonessential track, Achtung Baby still drops off a cliff when it's not hitting – "So Cruel," "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around the World," "Ultra Violet (Light My Way)" – a fact reiterated on the B-sides/bonus tracks CD, which cobbles together the nadir of such compilations ("Oh Berlin") that made more modest repackagings of The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree essential. An alternate and/or nascent mix of Achtung Baby not only doesn't add to the dialog, it perhaps subtracts from it. That leaves two superfluous remix CDs and a pair of needless DVDs, one whose video remixes could have been appended to the doc and a Zoo TV concert in Sydney, which was new to DVD in 2006. Housed in a coffeetable book with aggrandizing essays (time for your autobiography, Brian Eno), Achtung Baby Super Deluxe Edition no doubt pales next to the $400 überdeluxe box set, which includes Bono's "The Fly" sunglasses.

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